Will India decide to side with Russia in the negotiations between Moscow and Washington?

MOSCOW, 22 Dec 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

 

According to the Kremlin, on December 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Putin warmly thanked Narendra Modi for the hospitality extended to the Russian delegation during a high-level visit to New Delhi on December 6,” the Kremlin said in a statement. “Practical issues of the implementation of the agreements reached following the negotiations were discussed. A mutual disposition was expressed for the further comprehensive development of relations of a particularly privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India. The exchange of views on issues of international stability and security, including the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, continued.”

The conversation between the Russian and Indian leaders fits into the context of Putin’s visit to India, which RUSSTRAT has already written about, and is a kind of continuation of it. Some Indian publications believe that the India-Russia-China format and the Modi-Putin-Xi Jinping summit can become a concrete implementation of the dialogue between Moscow and New Delhi. The possibility of such a meeting was mentioned earlier by the assistant to the President of Russia Yury Ushakov. According to Indian journalists, Moscow’s mediation could “help put an end to the 20-month military standoff along the disputed border between India and China in eastern Ladakh.”

Let us recall that the confrontation began in April-May 2020, when the Indian army deployed additional troops in response to the actions of the Chinese army, which concentrated its units in the region, allegedly with the aim of “changing the border”. On June 15, 2020, 20 soldiers of the Indian army and 4 soldiers of the Chinese army were killed during a violent clash in the Galvan Valley in eastern Ladakh. Protracted negotiations between diplomats and the supreme military command of India and China led to the mutual withdrawal of the advanced units of the Chinese and Indian armies from the northern and southern shores of Lake Pangong-Tso in February and the Gogra region in August this year. However, Beijing and New Delhi could not agree on separation in the other remaining points of confrontation in the eastern Ladakh region.

But, in the opinion of RUSSTRAT, it would be wrong to reduce the Russian-Indian dialogue only to the problems of border settlement. There are many more points of intersection between our countries. As the SME TIMES website notes, “so far, Russia is not India’s main partner in the energy sector, although there are all possibilities for this, given the potential of the Northern Sea Route. In addition, both countries have similar positions regarding the energy transition to a low-carbon economy. In view of this, it is not surprising that the Indians are one of the most likely investors in the Vostok Oil project in Taymyr. Indian investors are clearly interested in this project, and senior officials from the Indian government have repeatedly spoken publicly about it.

The resource base of “Vostok Oil” is more than 6 billion tons of first-class low-sulfur oil, which makes it the largest project in the Russian and world economy. In addition, it is one of the leading low-carbon projects in the world – its carbon footprint is lower than that of others. Moreover, the proximity of the project’s fields to the unique transport corridor of the Northern Sea Route gives it an undeniable logistical advantage in the supply of oil to the markets of the Asia-Pacific region, including India. In this context, the interest of Indian partners in Russian shipbuilding is also not accidental. In September, at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Prime Minister Modi announced that one of the largest shipyards in India had become a partner of the “Zvezda” shipbuilding complex in the Far East.”

This is the first thing. The second: changes are awaited for trade deals on the supply of weapons to the Indians. According to Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the government “has made it very clear to the United States, Russia, France and other partner countries that the military platforms and weapons needed by the Indian armed forces should be manufactured on Indian soil.”

Paris has already responded to this. Singh said that after negotiations with French Defence Minister Florence Parly, it was decided that a large French company would produce some kind of “engine” in India, teaming up with a local company as part of a strategic partnership model. Experts suggest that the project is focused on military helicopters, the creation of which India plans to deploy in the next few years. In this situation, Moscow will need to make efforts to maintain its position in the arms trade with New Delhi.

And what in return? India, for example, could assist Russia in its negotiations with the United States. According to C. Raja Mohan, director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, “while Russia and the West are starting new dialogue on European security, India is deeply investing in a positive restructuring of Moscow’s relations with the West. The rise of China and geopolitical upheavals in Asia have increased India’s role in US-Russia relations.  Today, a compromise between Russia and the West will make it much easier for India to solve its own security problems.”

If New Delhi shares such positions, then the Indian leadership could convey its wishes to Washington by asking the Americans to listen very carefully to Russia’s position and its demands.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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